A Powerful Song Strikes Like Lightning
No matter how many times you’ve heard it, Garth Brooks‘ “The Thunder Rolls” is one of those songs that always gives you chills. That speaks to its power and timelessness, since the song has been out for nearly three decades.
Even the few people who have no idea who Brooks is have likely heard “The Thunder Rolls” at least once before. That speaks even further to just how impactful the song was, and continues to be.
When songs like “The Thunder Rolls” have been so popular for so long, you feel like you know everything there is to know about them.
But what if we told you there’s a bit of backstory behind Brooks’ hard-hitting song that you’ve probably never heard? And the reason why? Because no one ever talks about it…
How It All Got Started
“The Thunder Rolls” was released in 1991, but Brooks and the song’s co-writer, Pat Alger, started working on it years prior.
According to the book The Garth Factor: The Career Behind Country’s Big Boom by Patsi Bale Cox, Brooks was the one who came up with the idea, expressing the desire to write a song that portrayed “thunder rolling inside of a marriage and outside at the same time.”
That idea sparked something in Alger, who grabbed his guitar and started to play a rolling rhythm. The two finished the song, and were pleased with how it turned out.
But rather than keep the song for himself, Brooks wanted to pitch it to somebody else. And that someone else was Tanya Tucker.
Much to Brooks and Alger’s delight, Tucker was a fan of the song. However, her producer wanted an additional verse added, and they agreed to write one.
Why Tanya’s Version Didn’t Initially Pan Out
Tucker cut the song, and if things would have gone as planned, she would have released it. Meaning that the song may have never gone to Brooks, and would have existed in a form entirely different than the one we know today.
Finished recording my segment about "The Thunder Rolls" for the @garthbrooks documentary! pic.twitter.com/6Ixhn9f2MG
— Tanya Tucker (@tanyatucker) January 14, 2016
But that’s not what happened. Although Tucker did indeed record the song in the late 1980s, it was not placed on an album. That left it up for grabs, which Brooks’ producer, Allen Reynolds, was likely happy to hear, since he thought the song was too well-written for him to just give away to someone else.
After hearing that Tucker would not be releasing the song after all, Brooks decided to record it himself. He dropped the extra verse, since it had a more violent tone than any of the others.
That verse wasn’t lost forever though. While you’ll never hear it play on the radio, you can catch it whenever Brooks performs live.
Tanya’s Recording Finally Sees The Light
You know what else wasn’t lost forever? Tucker’s recording of the song. Although it wasn’t initially released, her recording finally surfaced on a box set that was made available in 1995.
But even though her recording finally saw the light of day, few country fans know it exist, and even fewer know that it was originally her song to begin with.
That’s why you hardly ever hear anyone share the story of how “The Thunder Rolls” came to be. For those who are unaware, it’s assumed that the song always belonged to Brooks.
Imagine if Tucker had released the song as planned. There’s no doubt that it would have been a hit, since it was so well-written and Tucker delivered it perfectly. However, if Tucker’s version had been released first, you can’t help but wonder if Brooks would have avoided recording the song himself.
Thankfully, we got the best of both worlds, as both Brooks and Tucker eventually released their renditions. In doing so, they forever attached their legacies to one of country music’s most iconic songs.
What did y’all think about this story? Did you have any prior knowledge of the complicated backstory behind “The Thunder Rolls?”